With our writing skills, creative bent, and passion for optimization, content marketers are a special kind of marketer. Here's how the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing:
"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
In other words, content marketing is about giving customers content they actually enjoy instead of forcing them to view a self-promotional ad. Content marketing as a job title hasn't been around for that long, but for those of us in content marketing, we're passionate about the possibilities and excited for the future.
So let's celebrate the unique things we as content marketers love. Here's a list of 15 things that make content marketing pros weak in the knees. If you have a content marketing friend or coworker, these areas are sure to help you find common ground.
Take it from Stephen King: “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Reading more is the best way to grow your writing skills. For many busy marketers I know, Medium is the preferred tool to find thought-provoking articles to read and publish both personal and business-related work. You can also collaborate with fellow writers on publications and interact directly with writers by publishing Medium responses. And I love the clean, intuitive design of the site and mobile app.
Medium is a place where the writing craft flourishes. (Check out Salesforce on Medium for a selection of our own writers' work!)
2. The Content Marketing Institute.
What a world we live in. There's a whole institute advancing the practice of content marketing. It's been around since 2007, and the Content Marketing Institute and its leaders — including the star-studded cast of Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose — are constantly sharing new research, best practices, and advice about every aspect of content marketing.
3. MarketingProfs and Ann Handley.
MarketingProfs is the excellent educational site and Ann Handley is the company's Chief Content Officer, the world's first ever! As a content marketer, you're basically destined to love the inaugural Chief Content Officer. MarketingProfs' trainings and events are great for content marketers looking to polish their skills.
Ann is also behind the @MarketingProfs Twitter handle and has written two fantastic books about content marketing: Content Rules and Everybody Writes. I highly recommend the latter next time you're in a writing funk.
As marketers, we're in the age of data. Every decision and new content initiative should be backed by solid data — about the format the content is in, the subject matter, when you release it, and much more. That's where eMarketer comes in. In its own words, eMarketer is "the first place to look when you need data about digital."
Through charts and helpful articles, eMarketer has data on everything you want to know about consumer behavior online. I reference this site all the time when I'm not sure how to approach a content marketing piece or I'm trying to solve a digital marketing problem.
5. Articles with content marketing predictions.
I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that, in 2016 and throughout 2017, content marketing predictions will continue to be popular with content marketers. The truth is, our industry is relatively new. Because so much is still unestablished and evolving about content marketing, I think we as content professionals place a high value on predictions to brace for what's next.
And that's smart: we're preparing for that next change or wave from the future. Most content marketers I know are highly interested in learning new skills and gaining new tech proficiencies so they can increase their content bandwidth and quality. Predictions about the future help us know where to invest our time.
6. Interactive content.
When many people think of content marketing, they think of the basics: blog posts, PDF whitepapers or e-books, maybe videos. But increasingly, content marketing is taking on new forms of interactivity. Marketers are now exploring sophisticated interactive websites to reach their audiences in more engaging ways. These interactive sites include quizzes, interactive maps, choose-your-own-adventure-style journeys, and much more.
Every time I see a cool new example of interactive content, I can't help but share it with my team members, who also geek out about such things. Check out these examples of inspiring interactive content:
7. Social media.
Ah, the old, "If you build it, they will come" fallacy. Content marketers know that creating great content doesn't mean that massive audiences will follow. That's why it's so important for content marketers to work closely with a social media team to ensure that content is shared the right way on the right social channels.
Content and social go together like chips and guacamole. Each has its own role in making sure customers are exposed to the content they'll find valuable wherever they spend their time online. For us at Salesforce, channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Snapchat have proven useful. For your brand, the channels may differ. The point is to know what social media channels your audience prefers, then to keep watch over time. Those channels may and will probably change, as evidenced by Snapchat recently overtaking Twitter in daily active users. (Also, I'm a content marketer and I love guacamole.)
8. Free and high-quality stock photo sites.
The average internet user's daily experience online is saturated with interesting headlines and visuals. The right art can complement your story perfectly and attract new visitors. But ill-placed or nonexistent imagery can sink the ship.
Unfortunately, stock photos aren't cheap, and some look cheesy or cliché. The good news is that there are many high-quality sites out there offering free photography for your content needs, if you know where to look. Some of my favorites are Unsplash, Gratisography, and Life of Pix. If you have other suggestions, I'd love to hear them! Send me a tweet.
9. Editorial calendars.
In my experience, one of the content marketer's most important tools is the editorial calendar. A good editorial calendar shows upcoming content pieces (everything from blog posts to larger-scale content), launch dates, authors and key stakeholders, and performance data for past content.
I can't keep track of how many times I look at various tabs on our team's editorial calendars from week to week — or how many times I send the link to other folks at the company to let them add their own projects or keep track of one. The editorial calendar should be on Google Drive or a similar tool so that everyone sees updates in real time. The editorial calendar really is a content marketer's best friend.
10. Industry podcasts.
Thanks to the popularity of shows like Serial and This American Life, podcasts are having a moment. Podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016, and I believe it will grow again next year. Many of my content marketing friends are big fans of podcasts. Listening to a podcast is a great way to learn something new or hear a new perspective while you'd otherwise be doing a mundane task (like filing expense reports), taking a walk, or commuting.
The best content marketing podcast out there is Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose's This Old Marketing. For a podcast that covers content marketing trends plus other trends in digital marketing, check out Salesforce's own Marketing Cloudcast. It's a weekly podcast hosted by myself and Joel Book, and we've featured several content marketing deep dives, including episodes with Joe and Robert.
11. Meeting other content marketers at conferences.
Whether it's at Dreamforce, Content Marketing World, Connections, or somewhere else, one of my favorite parts of the year is when I meet other content marketers at a conference.
You know how fun it is when you meet someone and instantly have lots in common with them? That's how I feel when I meet content marketers from other industries and companies. It's a special thrill to laugh and talk about shared content challenges, successes, and ideas for the future.
12. Keeping up with current events.
Many content marketers come from a journalism background. So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that content marketers are often major news junkies.
Whether it's keeping up with news about the new iOS, Twitter or Instagram algorithm, or local and political highlights, content marketers are usually well-informed about a variety of topics. Often, content marketers use their knowledge of current events to create content that's in sync with those hot topics.
No, newsjacking isn't recommended and usually doesn't work. But if something in the media is relevant to your industry and customers, there may be a smart and non-lame way to be part of the conversation instead of trying to steal the spotlight.
13. Having a side hustle.
Many content marketers are in the field because they enjoy creativity and discovering new ways to convey information. You can't have content marketing without content creation, right? It takes a unique type of marketer to constantly pursue new ways to create, create again, and create some more.
That means these creative types often have a side hustle or side project where they can explore more self-expression than they can in the workplace. I know content marketers who do photography, sell cool art on Etsy, write book reviews or their own books, and much more. Heck, I have a personal website where I occasionally share health, fitness, and diet-related content. The point is to have a creative outlet that's low-stakes (work is stressful enough!) and that energizes you.
14. Reminding people what an amazing investment content is.
Content marketing is pretty cool. Just ask any content marketer, who will be happy to tell you about all the benefits of content marketing for your business despite a comparatively low cost, especially when you look at tactics like TV commercials and big banner-ad campaigns. Even better, content marketing is entirely focused on the customer and what he or she will find useful — not your company's own self-serving messages.
If you're not convinced about content marketing's low investment for a huge payoff, I highly recommend Jay Baer's bestselling Youtility book. That's another thing content marketers love — telling people to read Youtility. (You're welcome.)
15. That "just published an awesome piece of content" feeling.
That feeling is why we do what we do: knowing that we just created a piece of content that will help customers in their daily lives or jobs. Content marketing might not be the flashiest marketing tactic in the game, but it's arguably the most useful.
According to Jay, we should all strive to create marketing so useful that people would pay for it. The best content marketing is "valuable, relevant, and consistent" and ultimately drives profitable customer action (per the CMI). To my fellow content marketers who make valuable content their goal, I salute you.
Have more suggestions for things content marketers love? Share them with me! Send me a tweet.
Successful content marketing is all about the measurement. In our free e-book How to Measure Your Content Marketing, get the metrics you need for expert measurement and improvement of your content strategy. Download your copy today!